How Magic Mushrooms could hold the key to curing depression

How Magic Mushrooms could hold the key to curing depression
Are hallucinations the secret to happiness? — New research shows psilocybin, the active ingredient in Magic Mushrooms, to have huge potential for treating depression.

Depression is a first world problem. Of course, depression exists worldwide, but it’s a huge and growing problem in wealthy, developed countries. As we get richer, we get more and more unhappy, studies show.

Yet despite up to a third of Europeans and 350 million people globally now suffering from depression and the considerable burden this places on health services, mainstream medicine is remarkably ineffective. Just 50% of patients respond to antidepressants, while around 20% do not respond to any treatment.

Now British researchers believe they have discovered the most effective treatment yet: Magic Mushrooms. The Beckley/Imperial Research Programme study, led by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, gave 12 patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression two separate doses of psilocybin seven days apart, together with psychological support.

A remarkable 67% of patients were depression free one week after treatment, with 42% still in remission three months later, according to findings published in the Lancet Psychiatry. Patients had suffered an average of over 18 years of depression and had found no respite in any other treatment.

Amanda Fielding, founder of the Beckley Foundation, which is pioneering the new wave of psychedelics research, says. “It is very exciting that our latest psilocybin study paves the way for a new treatment for depression. For the first time in many years, people who were at the end of the road with currently available treatments reported decreased anxiety, increased optimism and an ability to enjoy things. This is an unparalleled success and could revolutionise the treatment of depression.”

It is still unclear whether the effects were caused by purely chemical changes within the brain, or whether the psychedelic experience itself, described by participants as ‘mystical’ or ‘spiritual’, helped shift ingrained thought patterns.

This small scale study is just the first step towards developing effective treatment for depression. The initial positive findings would have to be replicated in larger clinical trials before a suitable treatment is available to patients.

Drug controls place significant barriers in the way of further research. In this study, Imperial College London’s Dr. David Nutt, who oversaw the research, estimated the cost of each dosage rose from £30 to £1,500 due to legal hurdles.

Combined with the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme’s groundbreaking study into LSD’s effects on the brain last month, researchers are confident that a growing weight of evidence into potential benefits will overcome resistance in the medical establishment. Taken together, the initial findings support how changes in consciousness induced by psychedelics could become invaluable tools for psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Find out more about The Beckley/Imperial Research Programme’s psilocybin study.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Latest on Huck

In photos: Three decades of Glastonbury Festival’s people and subcultures
Photography

In photos: Three decades of Glastonbury Festival’s people and subcultures

A new photobook explores the unique cultural experience and communal spirit found at the UK’s largest festival.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Surreal scenes from the streets of Tokyo
Photography

Surreal scenes from the streets of Tokyo

A new book by photographer Feng Li uses images of strange encounters to explore the historical centre of street photography.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Re-enchanted England: Exploring Paganism and Folklore
Culture

Re-enchanted England: Exploring Paganism and Folklore

A new book dives into the ancient traditions and rituals that many are turning to in an age of uncertainty, crisis and climate breakdown.

Written by: Thomas Andrei

Inside London’s Museum of Sex
Culture

Inside London’s Museum of Sex

For two days only a derelict house in south east London will become a hub of artwork exploring eroticism, sexuality, gender, and the body.

Written by: Brit Dawson

Why is Neil Diamond’s mega-hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ so intoxicating for sports fans?
Outdoors

Why is Neil Diamond’s mega-hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ so intoxicating for sports fans?

During this summer’s edition of the Euros, one certainty is the ubiquity of Diamond’s 1969 hit. But how and why did it gain such a storied place in England fans’ hearts? Jimmy McIntosh investigates.

Written by: Jimmy McIntosh

Can things only get better, again?
Election 2024

Can things only get better, again?

With the re-emergence of D:Ream’s euphoric 1993 hit and a ’97 style Labour landslide looking likely, Hannah Ewens dives deep into the creation of Cool Britannia, and asks experts whether it could be repeated again.

Written by: Hannah Ewens

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now